The practice of quality assurance in the hospitality industry arose from the birth of franchising nearly a century ago, when fast-food restaurants began branding their products across a region or even the entire country. Hotels subsequently followed suit, and a need for quality assurance arose.
At one time, inspectors conducted quality assurance inspections at hotels approximately every six months. They evaluated areas such as room service, exterior signage, and bathroom amenities. Today, due to the rapid growth of online reviews and marketing, consumers are becoming more savvy about making decisions based on quality and experience. Despite the shift to social media, the core component of quality assurance has not changed: the customer is always right.
In many ways, while the complexity of the current environment may seem overwhelming, it has never been easier to understand customers’ wants or needs, especially since many of them are more than happy to report their experiences online. Managing these experiences has become key, and a dedicated focus on quality assurance is crucial to maintaining a consistent experience across an entire brand or franchise.
By synthesizing the information found online with other metrics, such as internal performance reviews and quality standards, quality assurance experts have the ability to ensure that hospitality industry professionals meet their customers’ needs at a far more granular level than ever before.
The hospitality industry has long been an excellent driver of opportunity for job seekers and career-minded professionals. Indeed, in the United States, the hospitality job market grew 17 percent between 2004 and 2014, a startling rate of growth given an otherwise stagnant economy, which only grew 14 percent over the same period. The reason behind the continued worldwide boom in hospitality jobs can be attributed to the excellent prospects for professional development, flexibility, and diversity.
Hospitality is a business that requires an extremely wide range of support staff members, ranging from housekeeping personnel to management professionals. The variety of career paths means that getting started with an entry-level position is often far easier than in other industries. Furthermore, with a $3.5 trillion international market, the chances for advancement are often abundant, especially for those who are interested in moving from one location to another. Due to the continued consolidation of hotel chains, many companies are in a position to offer excellent benefits, and the nature of hospitality work means that new faces and experiences are available on a daily basis.
A report co-authored by a clinical professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration recently won the 2015 Industry Relevance Award from the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR). Created by Cornell professor Bill Carroll and Michigan State University professors Clay M. Voorhees and Michael McCall, the report found that hotel loyalty programs are effective and provide a method for hotels to measure how well their own loyalty programs work.
The researchers used thousands of guest transactions from two different hotel companies to compare room-night revenues from loyalty program members and guests who are not members. Upon reviewing the data, the researchers found that loyalty program members spent more at both hotel companies because they stayed at loyalty program hotels more often. Researchers concluded that by improving their loyalty programs, hotels could increase customer spending and customers’ emotional connection to the brand.
The Industry Relevance Award winners are chosen by CHR’s advisory board research committee and users of its website. The loyalty program report was fifth-most downloaded item on the CHR website in the past year.
A recent report from the Travel and Tourism Intelligence Center indicates that Asia’s luxury hotel market has recovered from the 2009 economic slowdown and is expected to grow over the next four years. Due in part to an expanding middle class and a growing economy, travel and tourism have recently increased in the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, demand for accommodations has increased, benefitting the luxury hotel sector and global operators such as Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood. The market reported record growth in 2013, with China leading the market with $20.6 billion in revenue. Japan recorded the most guests in luxury hotels, and Hong Kong had the highest occupancy rate and highest revenue per luxury room.
The Travel and Tourism Intelligence Center report looked at the luxury hotel market in 40 countries and provided detailed analysis by region of luxury hotels’ performance. Key indicators include hotels’ average revenue per available room, number of guests for the forecast period, and room nights occupied.
In a recent column for Hospitality Net, RAR Hospitality President Robert Rauch outlined a new set of disciplines he believes are key to successful leadership in the hospitality industry. Most importantly, he states, service leaders must articulate goals and project an optimistic mindset. When a leader clearly explains goals to employees and offers incentives for reaching them, success will follow, Rauch wrote.
With a “Just Do It” attitude, leaders will take action when it is needed. That can result in practical steps such as looking for new business when reservations are slow or inspiring up-and-coming leaders through actively caring for them and building them up. This attitude can trickle down to the details of all hospitality jobs, whether a waiter knows how to respond properly to a diner’s food complaint or sales managers promptly return calls.
Rauch also suggests that managers look for employees who have a passion for the job, not those who are entering the hospitality industry because they think it will be fun. Employees who will work hard, learn from their mistakes, and offer creative ideas and solutions can grow into future leaders who will continue a heritage of excellence at a property.
According to statistics from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai’s hospitality industry experienced significant growth in 2014. The sector saw a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year, with the city’s hotels welcoming 11,629,578 guests. This data indicates a continuation of the sector’s sustained year-on-year growth and aligns with growth in key areas, such as the number of nights booked, which increased by 7.4 percent in 2014. Additionally, hotel and hotel apartment revenue rose by 9.8 percent between 2013 and 2014, increasing from AED 21.8 billion to AED 23.9 billion.
In 2014, Dubai’s top international source markets for hotel guests were Saudi Arabia, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, Iran, Oman, China, Kuwait, Russia, and Germany. This grouping includes each of Dubai’s primary source markets from 2013, but reflects minor position changes. For example, China jumped from the 10th to the seventh spot in 2014. While Dubai hotels welcomed 275,675 Chinese guests in 2013, the number increased by 24.9 percent, with 344,329 guests over the following 12 months. This influx may be attributed to the promotional efforts of Dubai’s aviation industry, hospitality sector, and DTCM, which have targeted the ever-growing number of international Chinese travelers.
Additionally, regulatory changes contributed to increases in the number of European hotel guests. In March 2014, the United Arab Emirates government expanded its pre-entry visa exemption to the entirety of the European Union (EU), thereby simplifying international travel to Dubai for residents of the 28 EU member states.
In the last few years, customer expectations have dramatically changed the experience at luxury hotels. As customers demand a more streamlined, personalized experience, hotels struggle to deliver services that anticipate guests’ needs. Historically, hotels provided reactive service, meaning that they responded to requests from customers. Today, however, hotels are increasingly looking to deliver a real-time, personalized experience based on predictive analytics. The changing face of hospitality is not the same for each customer. Instead, it changes based on his or her needs and expectations.
Hospitality professionals have already seen a great deal of change in the ways in which guests check in and out of their rooms. Mobile technology has made tedious lines obsolete. Now, guests can check in while still in the taxi from the airport or by using a tablet as they are escorted to the room. Similarly, hotel employees can check out guests while escorting them to a taxi and simultaneously access real-time flight and traffic information to make the experience as streamlined as possible.
Technology allows hospitality professionals to collect an unprecedented amount of information about guests and their preferences. Smart phone apps, social media profiles, and even lobby sensors all deliver important insights about guest expectations and behaviors. This information has necessitated changes at the fundamental, strategic level. More so than ever before, the guest must be at the heart of company strategy.